DreamWorks uses social gaming to boost "Megamind"

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Social-networking firm Zynga is embarking on its first-ever feature film integration, partnering with DreamWorks Animation on a 24-hour campaign to boost awareness of the Friday release of “Megamind.”

Some might call it the digital age’s version of the Thursday primetime TV spot for the latest movie release.

Seeking to leverage Zynga’s reach, the studio will integrate “Megamind” into Zynga’s most popular game FarmVille, which boasts 17 million daily and 56 million monthly active users worldwide. Zynga’s games are available on such social networks as Facebook and MySpace.

On Thursday, “Megamind’s” titular antihero will launch his own Mega-Farm, a themed landmark within the social game that incorporates the storyline and characters of the film.

For 24 hours, users can see special branded content from the film, such as a “Megamind” contraption. Two special items will be available to players who visit the character’s farm -- a special Mega-Grow formula that helps to instantly grow crops without wilting plus a collectable decorative item that players can put up in their own farms.

“We are always looking for new ways to connect with movie fans, and the biggest shift in marketing mix has been that more dollars nowadays go online,” said Anne Globe, head of worldwide marketing for DreamWorks Animation. “FarmVille is huge, and the comedic nature of the film lends itself to the fun of the game play.”

Globe said her team will look at such metrics as awareness levels, online chatter (via Twitter and the like) and a possible spike in ticket sales to evaluate the success of the FarmVille campaign. If it works well, “we certainly would want to do more” with future movie or DVD releases.

Players can purchase tickets to go see the movie directly from FarmVille, which helps the companies track the campaign’s success.

The short-term focus of the movie promotion lends it urgency and excitement, but there may be the opportunity for keeping fans engaged with key DreamWorks Animation film or TV characters longer term, she said.

Zynga late last year ran a weeklong campaign with Universal Studios in social game Mafia Wars in support of the Blu-ray and DVD release of “Public Enemies.” Zynga also has done FarmVille integrations with the likes of McDonald’s and Farmers Insurance.

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus founded the company, named after his late bulldog Zinga with a nod to an African warrior queen, in 2007. Its other games include Zynga Poker, Cafe World, YoVille, PetVille and Treasure Isle.

San Francisco-based Zynga’s games are free, but the privately held company reportedly has been profitable since shortly after launching. It makes money when users pay for virtual goods, such as accessories, that allow them to add items inside a game, move up in it or to give friends gifts.

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was recently quoted as saying that if he had to start all over again, he would want to be Pincus, because he created the next killer app.